A Labour MP has dismissed as “toothless” Government efforts to clarify powers to fine councils if EU targets are not met, and warned that the issue of fines for waste charging could “end up in the courts”.
Halsingden and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones used a House of Commons debate to criticise a Government a Localism Bill amendment which sought to provide further details on the use of powers to pass down fines to local authorities of EU targets are not met, which could apply to waste and recycling targets.
Communities minister Greg Clark explained that the amendment would relate to authorities which “do not adopt a [waste] plan as required—that is, something specifically required of that authority—and if it has been warned that it needs to have one, that will be the occasion for a fine”. He added that a local authority’s recycling performance was “completely irrelevant”.
Jones described the amendment as “toothless”. He said: “If local authorities are to come up with a plan, they will come up with one and carry on recycling at 30%. The minister is not going to say to local authorities, ‘well, because you’ve got a plan, we’re going to do something about it.’ Instead, he will be saying, ‘you’ve got a plan, so we’re going to do nothing about it’.”
Jones added: “If action is to be taken, it will hit some of the poorest communities that have higher recycling rates, not some of the wealthiest ones, and the same goes for landfill taxes. I appreciate ministers’ comments but, as far as I am concerned, I am delighted that all the teeth have been taken out of this proposal.
“If the Government will not invest in recycling centres, or if the spread of recycling centres across the country is disproportionate, that is not fair either, but that is a Government policy. It is not an EU policy – it is a policy that the Government will be answerable for. The Local Government Association is quite correct to say the Government will be held to account; indeed, this issue could end up in the courts.”